Greek Court Backs Alexander Vinnik's Extradition to Russia After US Extradition Verdict

A tug-of-war between the United States and Russia over the extradition of a Russian national suspected of bitcoin-related fraud went into a new round on Wednesday when a Greek court backed Russia's claim.

Following a US request, Vinnik was arrested in July while on holiday with his family in the Halkidiki area of northern Greece, which is popular with Russian tourists.

The 38-year-old software developer was allegedly behind a money laundering operation to the tune of $4 Billion in Bitcoin.

Last week a Thessaloniki court ruled he should be extradited to the USA, a decision he is challenging at Greece's supreme court. He is the most prominent of the seven Russian citizens accused in the USA of cybercrime. However, Russia criticized the ruling and called it unjust and illegal, while Vinnik appealed at the Supreme Court, the highest in the hierarchy of courts.

Vinnik denies all charges against him.

Last week, Thessaloniki judges ruled that he could be handed over to the United States, but they have now also ruled the Russian extradition request admissible.

In the USA, where he faces up to 55 years in prison, Vinnik is accused of running BTC-e - a digital currency exchange used to trade bitcoin - to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking since 2011. He said that he had not operated BTC-e but only acted as a technical consultant.

On Wednesday, a different panel of judges accepted a Russian extradition request, which followed the initial USA one.

"That is his wish - to be extradited to Russia and to give his account before the Russian judicial authorities", Alexandros Lykourezos, the lawyer leading Vinnik's defence, told reporters after the ruling in Thessaloniki.

The final decision will rest with Greece's justice minister once Vinnik, 37, has exhausted the process of appealing his extradition to the U.S.



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